Protests Over George Floyd Killing Ignite Calls for Police Reform in Texas

police reform

The killing of George Floyd in Minnesota sparked nationwide protests and increased scrutiny of the treatment of African Americans by police officers in Texas and elsewhere.

In Texas, activists have pointed to the killings and mistreatment of black suspects by police officers and called for greater protections for people who come into contact with law enforcement.

The Texas Tribune reported Gov. Greg Abbott said the brutality inflicted on Floyd should never happen in Texas.

However, the article pointed to the Lone Star State’s history of killings by police officers. Last month, Michael Ramos was shot by an officer with a bean bag round as he stood by his car with his hands in the air saying he was unarmed. When he got into his car and tried to drive away he was shot to death by an officer with a rifle. The Austin Chronicle reported the case may go before a grand jury in Travis County.

In 2019, Atatiana Jefferson was fatally shot by a white police officer through a bedroom window in her Fort Worth residence. The Tribune reported the shooter did not identify himself as a police officer before yelling at Jefferson to put her hands up and then shooting. A grand jury has indicted a 35-year-old police officer on murder charges.

A year earlier, a police officer killed Botham Jean, an African American man, as he sat on his couch. The police officer said she mistook Jean’s apartment for her own. Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was sentenced to 10 years for the killing.

Activists say a new climate in the wake of the death of Floyd has given added impetus to police reforms.

Indianna Taylor, an organizing co-chair for the Dallas chapter of Black Youth Project 100, said people are now looking again at police shootings in Dallas and elsewhere in Texas and no longer seeing them as isolated events.

The Tribune reported lawmakers in Congress have introduced legislation to end qualified immunity for police as well as a sweeping reform bill to ban the use of chokeholds and create a national database for police misconduct.

Texas is to add implicit bias training in its requirements for new police officers while many local departments are banning methods such as chokeholds and drawing up requirements for other officers to intervene if they see a police officer using excessive force.

Meanwhile, Texas legislators who drew up the Sandra Bland Act are trying to push through police reforms that were dropped from the original bill.

Bland, an African American woman, ended up in a Waller County Jail cell after an altercation with a state trooper following a traffic infraction in 2015. She took her life in the cell.

The lawmakers who drew up the legislation bearing her name originally included widespread measures to regulate police behavior including a ban on racial profiling during traffic stops. They wanted to prevent police from stopping drivers for traffic violations as a pretext to investigating other potential crimes, limit police searches of cars, and address other jail and policing reforms.

But by the time the legislation passed, most of the sweeping provisions related to policing had been stripped out. The police-related provisions ended up removed from the eventual legislation that was restricted to increased safeguards for people locked in cells.

The Tribune reported State Sen. John Whitmire and state Rep. Garnet Coleman have pledged to continue to work together on criminal justice reform efforts next year.

They are looking to push for measures they hoped to achieve with the 2017 Sandra Bland law including investigations into racial profiling by police officers, giving the legislation more power to control police stops.

Coleman will file measures stripped from the Sandra Bland Act in 2017, such as imposing toughie standards for law enforcement officers to stop and search a vehicle and banning police from stopping drivers for minor traffic violations to allow them to investigate other matters.

Coleman told the Tribune he will look at other measures related to pressure from constituents in the wake of Floyd’s death, “specifically getting rid of chokeholds” and compelling other officers to intervene if a colleague uses unreasonable force against a suspect.

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